The State of Rental Housing in Cook County: Current Conditions & Forecast
May 31, 2007 | Grantee Publications | Housing

As of 2005, there were approximately 2 million housing units in Cook County, and 835,000 of these were rentals. Of these, only 353,000 are considered “affordable”—renting for less than $750 per month.1 Moreover, the stock of affordable rental units is projected to fall by an additional 38,000 units by 2020 while demand for such units will increase by 34,000. In this report, we document the state of rental housing in Cook County—the first time this information has been put together in one place. We also present a forecast of both the supply of and demand for affordable rental housing that is likely to exist in the year 2020. Here are some of our key findings.

  • If recent trends continue, 38,000 affordable rental units will disappear by the year 2020. This forecast includes the projected new construction of 40,000 units by regional housing agencies so the actual loss of affordable units would be 78,000. In other words, for each new affordable unit built, two existing affordable units would be lost.
  • Over the same time period, the demand for affordable rental units is projected to increase by 34,000, rising along with the county’s general population.
  • Residents of Cook County are much more likely to rent than are other Americans; 38.5% of Cook County households rent, as compared with 33% for the rest of the nation. Renters also are typically much younger than owners. Among Cook County households headed by someone younger than age 25, a total of 85% rent.
  • In Cook County, renters earn less than half the income of owners, with approximately half earning less than $30,000 per year. Almost 370,000 rental households pay more than 30% of their income for housing, which is often used as the cutoff for “rent-burdened.”
  • Rental households in Cook County are much more likely to be occupied by minorities; 36% were occupied by Blacks and an additional 20% were occupied by Hispanics. The comparable percentages for the U.S. were 19% and 17%, respectively.
  • Rental units in Cook County tend to have more units per structure than rentals in the rest of the nation. This is especially true for structures with two-to-four units, which account for more than a third of all rental units in Cook County but only 20% in the rest of the U.S.
  • Rental units in Cook County are much older than rental units in the rest of the country, and therefore are at higher risk of demolition or conversion. Approximately 60% of Cook County rental units were built before 1960, as compared with only 34% for the rest of the country.


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